Fleas cause discomfort and irritation to both pets and people. Fleas account
for more than half of all dermatological conditions requiring veterinary
assistance, and even a single flea bite to a hypersensitive animal or person
may cause intense itching and irritation.
For successful flea control, the home, pet and oftentimes, the yard must be
treated. Yet the manner in which these treatments are performed can
greatly influence the results. The following information will help frustrated
pet owners effectively rid their homes and pets of fleas.
Facts About Fleas
Adult fleas (the biting stage seen by pet owners) spend most of their time
on the animal, not in the carpet. This is why treatment of the pet in conjunction with the pet's environment is an essential step in ridding a home of fleas.
Adult fleas lay all of their eggs (up to 50 per day) on the pet. However, the eggs soon fall off the animal into carpeting, beneath the cushions of furniture, and wherever else the pet rests, sleeps or spends most of its time. This is where homeowners should focus control measures.
After hatching, flea eggs develop into tiny, worm-like larvae. Larvae remain
hidden deep in carpet fibers, beneath furniture cushions and in other
protected areas. The larvae feed mainly on adult flea feces (dried blood
which accumulates, along with the eggs, in pet resting and activity areas.
Before becoming adult fleas, the larvae transform into pupae within a silk-like cocoon. Pupae remain inside the cocoon for 2 to 4 weeks, sometimes longer. The cocoon is resistant to insecticides and this is why some adult fleas are seen for an extended period, even after the home and pet are treated.
Instructions for treatment of fleas.Before treatment, the home owner should:
Remove all toys, clothing, and stored items from floors, under beds, and
in closets. This step is essential so that all areas will be accessible
Remove pet food and water dishes, cover fish tanks, and disconnect their aerators. Wash, dry-clean or destroy all pet bedding.
Vacuuming removes many of the eggs, larvae and pupae developing within the home.
Vacuum thoroughly, especially in areas where pets rest or sleep. Don't forget to vacuum along edges of rooms and beneath furniture, cushions, beds, and throw rugs. After vacuuming, seal the vacuum bag in a garbage bag and discard it in an outdoor trash container.
People and pets should be out of the house during treatment. People and
pets should also remain off treated surfaces until the spray has dried.
This may take 3 to 4 hours depending on carpet type, ventilation and method
of application. Opening windows and running the fan or air conditioner
after treatment will enhance drying and minimize odor.
Expect to see some fleas for 2 weeks or longer following treatment. Provided all infested areas were treated initially, these "survivors" are probably newly emerged adults which have not yet succumbed to the insecticide. Instead of retreating the premises immediately, continue to vacuum.
As noted earlier, vacuuming stimulates the insecticide-resistant pupae to hatch, bringing the newly emerged adults into contact with the insecticide sooner. If adult fleas continue to be seen beyond 2-4 weeks, retreatment of the premises (and pet) may be necessary.
Treatment of Pet
It is important that the pet be treated in conjunction with the premises, preferably on the same day. Adult fleas spend virtually their entire life on the animal -- not in the carpet.
Untreated pets will continue to be bothered by fleas. They may also transport fleas in from outdoors, eventually overcoming the effectiveness of the insecticide applied inside the home.
Pets can be treated either by a veterinarian or the pet owner. A variety of on-animal formulations are available that may be prescribed by veterinarians. Many provide only short-term relief against biting adults(a few hours to a few weeks); however, two new veterinarian-supplied products, Advantage and Frontline, control adult fleas on pets for 1 and 3 months, respectively. Both of these products are available through veterinarians. Pet owners should always read the product label. Certain products can be used only on dogs, and some list specific treatment procedures for puppies and kittens.
To re-cap, "de-fleaing" the pet is an essential step in ridding
a home of fleas. However, pet owners must also treat the pet's environment,
the home. Having your pet dipped will not, in itself, eliminate fleas
in an infested home.
Treatment of Yard Most flea problems can be eliminated by treating the pet and the interior of the home. In cases where pets spend most of their time outdoors, it may also be necessary to treat the yard. One way to determine if the yard is infested is to walk around the property wearing white athletic socks, pulled to the knee. If fleas are present, they will be seen against the white background of the socks.
Outdoor flea treatment should focus on areas where pets rest, sleep, and run, such as doghouse and kennel areas, under decks, along fences and next to the foundation. It is seldom necessary to treat the entire yard or open areas exposed to full sun.